By going ahead and firing the women’s hockey coach, UMD highlighted their priorities.
ByJared Rogers-Martin February 02, 2015
Simply seeing a $6 million budget deficit could make anyone gulp nervously, so I can only imagine the size of the knot that swells in University of Minnesota-Duluth Chancellor Lendley Black’s throat as he deals with fixing one.
In order to remedy the school’s financial maladies, Black and Athletics Director Josh Berlo informed several of their sports teams’ head coaches that their salaries might need to be restructured to fit in the school’s new budget.
Shannon Miller, the head coach of the women’s hockey team, took the notice in stride and was waiting on further word for what those pay cuts would look like.
In December, however, UMD changed the name of the game by informing Miller that, because of “financial concerns,” she would not return in any capacity for next year’s season.
By firing Miller, the school put a price on the cultural asset of retaining the highest paid coach in women’s hockey, a signifier that connotes a respectful commitment to gender equality in sports.
Miller’s name carries more weight than just her salary. Her coaching led the team to win five national championships, and she was the former coach of Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team.
Miller has four more national title wins than the UMD men’s team coach, Scott Sandelin. However, her $207,000 salary is about $40,000 less than his.
Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 prevents discrimination in collegiate sports based on gender. It also mandates that there be equal investments in both men’s and women’s sports. Whether this salary difference is considered fair is entirely up to the NCAA, but I think that firing one coach while keeping the other seems like a Title IX violation in terms of providing a professional experience for the student-athletes.
In a situation where pinching pennies matters, UMD missed the opportunity to make a statement that validates its commitment to women’s sports and gender equality.
Miller’s resume and winning tendencies provide her athletes with an invaluable resource: experience.
Miller certainly deserves to be the highest-paid coach in women’s college hockey, and her position in a Minnesota school speaks wonderfully for the state that claims to be the “hockey capital of America.”
The way that UMD handled Shannon Miller’s termination makes it look like they want to rewrite that claim to read, “Minnesota is the men’s hockey capital of America.”
This would be a far less inspiring and admirable statement for Minnesota sports.